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Father of NFL player who drowned doubts Nick Schuyler's story

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 08:35 AM

The drama unfolded each day during a frantic search for four men – two of whom were professional football players – missing at sea two years ago.

The ending proved just as gripping. Images of a lone survivor, clinging to the motor of an overturned boat, as a U.S. Coast Guard vessel powered through the swells towards him.

It's two years later. The survivor, Nick Schuyler, is well and has written a book about what happened. In it, he describes in detail how, one by one, his fishing companions disappeared under the waves, leaving him alone on the hull of the boat.

In interviews since then, the fitness trainer has said he wrote the book, not only for himself, but for the families of his friends.

Now, the father of one of the dead has doubts about the story.

Bruce Cooper, whose son Marquis Cooper, perished beneath the waves said Schuyler's account of what happened doesn't add up.

"From the minute Nick hits the water, he becomes Superman," Cooper told azcentral.com in a recent televised interview in Arizona. "He's saving people. He's giving mouth to mouth. He's giving chest compressions. He's doing everything."

Marquis Cooper was a professional football player and an excellent swimmer, his father said. "What Nick Schuyler says what happened, it didn't go down like that," he said in the interview.

He said Schuyler's recollection that Marquis Cooper tried but failed to swim under the boat to retrieve life vests doesn't' ring true. "Marquis was a powerful swimmer," his father said. "That whole story is a bunch of bull. It didn't go down the way Nick Schuyler said it did."

Schuyler maintains in several interviews that his version, laid out in "Not Without Hope," is what happened. Attempts to reach him through his publicist this morning were not immediately successful, but the publicist, Rick French, did have something to say.

"Bruce Cooper's comments are inappropriate and without merit," French said in an email to The Tampa Tribune. "Nick was the only survivor of that fateful trip and his account is the only one that exists or matters.

"Mr. Cooper's remorse over the death of his son is understandable but blaming the survivor doesn't change anything," French said, "and if he persists in throwing around innuendos and slandering an individual who also has suffered greatly, the next time he will hear from us is in a court filing."

Schuyler since has appeared on several national television shows, including the Oprah Winfrey Show and HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

He repeatedly recounted the ordeal of watching his three friends drift away one by one after the overturned boat was pummeled by 12-foot seas 70 miles from shore. Cooper, a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders, free agent defensive end Corey Smith and Will Bleakley, Schuyler's best friend and former University of South Florida football player, succumbed to hypothermia and perished in the 60-degree water.

In those interviews, Schuyler said that as he clung alone onto the motor on that boat, he thought he also would die.

"Watching three guys die in my arms, it was obviously in the front of my mind," Schuyler told "Today" co-host Matt Lauer in a March 2010 interview.

He was adrift for 43 hours before the Coast Guard rescued him.

The boat flipped in the choppy water when the men tried to free a stuck anchor by moving the rope to the stern and gunning the motor.

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